First things first…WE WON THE TRIPLE CROWN CONTEST!
At the time of this writing (Sunday evening) it has just under 8,000 views. BO and I are by our phones waiting for the movie people to call us up.
Onto the weekend…
So about a week ago I talked about how, despite P being on his best behavior lately, I’ve been falling back into some of my old defensive habits. I think that going from weekly lessons with Trainer B for 7 months to only one since the end of November has just had me regressing a bit. Our flat work has been alright- I’m working on a lot of little things and P is going just fine. But as soon as I point him at a jump, all my confidence goes flying through the window and I end up slow-crawling him to jumps while tipped forward and clenching every muscle in my body. Again. I thought we were past that. Guess not.
Having had some pretty rough times with trainers, I figured I’d stick it out and wait for Trainer B to pop back up. Until this weekend, on the advice of a friend who had made the same journey there for the same reason, when I visited one Tamarack Hill Farm. That’s right. DENNY EMERSON. And me. In the same arena.
Now, if you’re an eventer (or even if you’re not) and you don’t know who he is, I’m sorry, but you should look him up. The guy is impressive. He’s evented for longer than I’ve been alive, and still gets on greenie OTTBs, competes, and rides in 100 mile endurance rides. I’ve followed his FB page for several years and besides one viewpoint that I disagree with, I’m a fan. He posts a lot of “I did this wrong so don’t be like me” advice, along with some badass pictures. And I’m always particularly interested when he posts things about one of his horses, Rosie, who he got as a 4 year old OTTB and who stopped at every single jump.
So I figured if there was anyone that wouldn’t do things like jack up a jump and make me jump it on the buckle, or who would make fun of me for wanting to stay at lower heights, it’d be him. At least I really hoped so.
So I emailed the generic email address at the bottom of the page and a few hours later, received an email back from his wife, asking me to call Denny that evening on his cell.
WHAT DO I EVEN SAY
But I called, and we talked for a few and made plans for me to head over there Saturday afternoon and stay through Sunday. Which was a relief, because this is the only weekend I have free until mid March and I really wanted some help ASAP. As long as the rain stayed away.
Saturday morning I scrubbed P head to toe (also did this on Friday, damn mud), cleaned my boots and my tack, packed up my trailer and we drove the 2 hours to Southern Pines.
I set up my trailer, tacked P up, and we headed up to what I hoped was the direction of the arena. Getting closer to the barn, I happened upon a person to whom I asked instructions from. Said person happened to be DARYL KINNEY. Already I loved this place.
So I get to the arena, explain a little bit of our history and the issues we’ve had/have, and he asks me if I can see a distance.
And then he asks me if I have an adjustable canter.
I mean….sometimes I can see where we’re going. And sometimes I can adjust P. That’s good enough, right?
But we worked on it. A lot. Over rails until he proclaimed I do in fact, have a solid “3 stride eye”, and sent me to a jump where I promptly forgot what to do and hung P out to dry.
So we did a bit more, mixing it up between rails and small jumps until P & I were both definitely feeling the effects- P’s not been asked to have such an uphill canter before and I’ve not, ya know, cantered that much. Doh.
But you’re welcome, everyone who follows his Tamarack Hill Farm FB page. Because not even 2 hours after our lesson had ended, he posted this gem. Inspired by yours truly.
And because I was obviously SO terrible, not just one post would do it because this popped up 30 minutes later.
Now, you all wouldn’t have gotten those nuggets of wisdom had I not gone. So I feel like I did his 64,000+ followers a great service and maybe should be compensated for that.
But it all made complete sense and I realize just how little I practice at the canter, even on flatwork days where I specifically work at the canter. It’s not enough. So what to do? He calls it the “hoof print game.”
When I work on adjustability of the canter, here’s what I do: set up a couple rails, maybe 5 strides apart. Go through and see if I can get 3, 4, 6, 7 strides. That’s all well and fine, but it’s not even necessary. He said every time he canters, every time Daryl canters, they play the “hoof print game” where they pick a hoof print (or leaf or pinecone or shadow or whatever fixed object on the ground) and start counting 3 strides out. And they do it over and over, the entire time they’re cantering. He said you’ll miss hundreds of times, then you’ll start to miss less and less. Then you’ll start to automatically adjust the canter to make the 3 strides fit. Then up the ante and do it to small jumps. Then bigger jumps. It’ll take a long time if you do it every day, but it’ll take even longer if you don’t. Total lightbulb moment. So simple (but it’s actually not. It’s actually really hard.).
The next day the original plan was to go out cross country, but I asked instead if we could build more upon the last day. I really wanted to get a solid understanding of what to do to help P’s canter, which tends to get more and more downhill as we go along, before I went home and was back on my own again. So we worked again, this time solely over rails and playing the hoof print game.
One thing I mentioned to him was that it was one thing to go over the rails but as soon as I’d head to a jump, it all went out my head and I froze. And he went into talking about a lyric by the band America that went, “Oz didn’t give nothing to the tin man that he didn’t already have.” And said, “You have a 3 stride eye, you can see the distance, you just don’t believe it. Once you believe it, you’ll own it.”
So that’s my daily homework for the next….forever.
All in all, it was super educational and I’d definitely recommend lessoning with him if you get the chance. He spends a lot of time lecturing, which I enjoyed because he really broke down things that mere mortals like me could understand. I was a little worried that he would be the kind that yelled and belittled when you got it wrong (like a previous trainer I worked with), but nope. Instead he would say, “That’s what practice is for and this is practice,” which took some pressure off. P behaved wonderfully, but I could tell he was a bit tired after 3 solid days of traveling/lessons. So he’ll get tomorrow off, then Tuesday we’ll pick back up with the hoof print game! Because I’ll be damned if I’m going to head to any more jumps just praying.